Discouraged yet determined, the varsity volleyball team did not accept defeat, losing two sets against Saginaw Heritage. They went on to win the next three sets, ultimately clinching the win in one of their toughest Saginaw Valley League match ups., improving their league record to 6-0.
Assistant Coach Angela McMath said the win against Heritage is her proudest on-the-court moment of the team. Throughout the game, she continued to reassure the team to stay positive and to remain focused on each play.
“Coaching-wise, you just remind them one point at a time [when they were down against Heritage].” McMath said, “In a tight game you can’t get nervous, you have to go hard and at it. They didn’t stop swinging and they fought their way back to win the game.”
The most impressive part about the win against Heritage, McMath said. Was the full team effort.
“There was not a superstar in that game,” McMath said. “Someone would go on a serving streak, another would make an offensive play, a defensive play, and there were the unsung heros who were putting themselves as blocks.”
McMath said the girls are close outside of volleyball. The team spends free time together and bonds before tournament games. They do many activities together, not only as teammates, but also as friends.
“Off the court they have very energetic personalities,” McMath said. They are very entertaining and fun to watch. They know how to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.”
Senior Emma Wolf said that their team is one big family. Off of the court, the team spends a great deal of their free time together, enjoying activities that include singing, dancing, and going to places such as SkyZone.
“We work together really well.” Wolf said. “We may not be the tallest team or the strongest hitting team, but everyone knows everybody and we are all really good friends.”
The fact that the teammates have played together for two to three years contributes to the closeness of the group and has created many memories that the girls share together. Some members of the team have even played together since middle school.
“My favorite memory is playing Little Sally Walker before we played Dow at the Cadillac tournament,” Wolf said.” It got us all excited to beat Dow.”
Head Coach Tim Zerull has been coaching the volleyball team for 15 years, and he also said that the team chemistry has been outstanding this year.
“I am a believer that a team needs to be great teammates to be a good team,” Zerull said.
Along with teammate Wolf and Assistant Coach McMath, Junior Grace Rekeweg stresses the importance of team unity and its impact on the game.
“You have to have good team chemistry in order to win and dominate in matches.” Rekeweg said. “It’s fun because in order to dominate you have to know how everyone plays and what they play well.”
While the team unity has been outstanding this year, they have also been very successful in other aspects of game play as well. Their tough tournament schedule has prepared them for league games, and as a result they hold first place in the valley so far. Playing teams such as Novi, Cadillac, and Macomb Dakota, who are previous state champions, in tournaments has assisted the girls in close league games.
“Our team goal is just to play as hard as we can every time we get on the court,” Rekeweg said.
Zerull said the team’s record isn’t flashy, with an overall record of 21-14-1, but he believes that the team has grown throughout the season.
“I think the progress and the process we have made from the beginning of the season has been very worthwhile.” Zerull said.
With six seniors on this year’s team, they are working hard to make the most of this season.
“Everyone is going to try their hardest because there is not another season to do better,” Wolf said.
Terri Dulude, a previous assistant coach, has coached and played volleyball since middle school. Dulude still follows the current volleyball team and highlights the importance of teamwork.
“I love how teamwork is absolutely necessary since three teammates usually have to play the ball on each possession,” Dulude said
Her daughter Lindsey Dulude graduated from Midland High School in 2008, where she continued her volleyball career at CMU. Dulude sees a lot of similarities between this year’s team and her daughter’s team that made it to the quarterfinals.
“The only real difference I see in this year’s team to Lindsey’s senior year team is that this year’s team has more depth,” Dulude said.“Both teams were outstanding and favored to win a lot.”
The girls aren’t the only ones benefiting from the victories this season. Zerull recently coached his 600th winning game on Oct. 11th.
“One hundred twenty athletes in 27 years made it happen,” Zerull said.
The girls have enjoyed playing for Zerull this season, and feel that his coaching is a great asset to their team’s achievements.
“Most of us have been playing for Coach Z for 2-3 years so we all get along really well together,” Wolf said. “We are all kind of a family in a weird way,” said Wolf.
Rekeweg and McMath said that the quality and unity of the players and coaches both contribute to the accomplishments of the group so far this season.
“More people on this team want to win,” Rekeweg said. “We have more girls this year who want to dominate out there, and overall we have really good dynamics with both our coaches.”
McMath compared this year’s group of girls to another that she took to quarterfinals in 1997. That team featured Erin Hartley, who went on to play at Michigan State and was recently inducted into the MHS Hall of Fame.
“This year’s team has a little bit more height and a deeper roster than the team from 1997,” McMath said. “How far they can take it is going to depend on their heart, drive, and desire, and sometimes just the luck of the draw of the game, but I would say that they are very comparable to the one that I would say was my best from my nine years of coaching.”
The team’s record has set them up to at least share the first place title in the SVL. Zerull hopes for more than a shared title.
“I hope we have the ability to make a decision to be selfish and demand ourselves an outright SVL title,” Zerull said.
UPDATE: The Chemics defeated Lapeer in straight sets 3-0 to win the Saginaw Valley League outright.
Hoping to carry their momentum into the playoffs, both McMath and Zerull said this year’s team has the ability to make it back to the quarter finals. Their first district game is Thursday, Nov. 3 at Heritage High School.
Written by Holly Stauffer and Hope O’Dell as appearing in the October 20th, 2016 issue of FOCUS.